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Jan 14 2013

The price always seems worth it when others are the ones dying

The Guardian has a disturbing report on the effect of economic and banking sanctions on Iran, which has resulted in serious hardship being imposed on sick people because of the resulting scarcity of life-saving drugs.

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the unintended consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines such as chemotherapy drugs for cancer and bloodclotting agents for haemophiliacs.

Western governments have built waivers into the sanctions regime – aimed at persuading Tehran to curb its nuclear programme – in an effort to ensure that essential medicines get through, but those waivers are not functioning, as they conflict with blanket restrictions on banking, as well as bans on “dual-use” chemicals which might have a military application.

The report goes on to identify the tens of thousands of people who are being denied access to important and medicines and treatments because of the fears of medical companies that the US will retaliate against them for providing such things.

Meanwhile, the scale of the looming Iranian health crisis threatens to overwhelm recent efforts to mitigate the sanctions regime. At present 85,000 new cancer patients are diagnosed each year, requiring chemotherapy and radiotherapy which are now scarce. Iranian health experts say that annual figure has nearly doubled in five years, referring to a “cancer tsunami” most likely caused by air, water and soil pollution and possibly cheap low-quality imported food and other products.

In addition, there are over 8,000 haemophiliacs who are finding it harder to get blood clotting agents. Operations on haemophiliacs have been virtually suspended because of the risks created by the shortages. An estimated 23,000 Iranians with HIV/Aids have had their access to the drugs they need to keep them alive severely restricted. The society representing the 8,000 Iranians suffering from thalassaemia, an inherited blood disorder, has said its members are beginning to die because of a lack of an essential drug, deferoxamine, used to control the iron content in the blood.

Of course, such humanitarian considerations are hardly likely to move the leaders of western countries. Recall US Secretary of State Madeline Albright’s comment in 1996 that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children as a result of US–led sanctions was “worth it”. Watch how casually she says it, as if it was no big deal. And she was right, because she suffered absolutely no consequences for her brutally callous words and actions in support of a policy that had murderous consequences. After all, who cares about dead children, as long as they are foreign and in a country that the US has declared to be an enemy?

18 comments

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  1. 1
    slc1

    I wonder how many German children died in WW 1 due to the effects of the British blockade. And I wonder how many British children would have died if the German Uboat campaign had been successful.

    That’s the nature of war. As General Sherman put it, war is hell.

  2. 2
    Ramel

    Yeah because the sanctions against Iran are of course completely equivalent to WW2. Which was totally cool and absolutely a good and worth while thing, the movies told me so.

  3. 3
    slc1

    Re Ramel @ #2

    Apparently, Mr. Ramel has a reading comprehension problem. I said WW 1. However, we are in a state of war with Iran and have been since 1979 because of the illegal occupation of our embassy in Tehran. This is in addition to their support of Hizbollah, Hamas, and Assad of Syria.

  4. 4
    Ramel

    Oh terribly sorry, that typo of course completely invalidates my entire position.
    Last time I checked the reason your wonderfully nice and friendly government, which would never ever support unpleasant and violent dictators (well except Noriega, Berdymukhamedov, Pinochet, Batista, and of course the last f’cking shah of Iran), was at ‘war’ with Iran because they have oil, aren’t friendly to the people that have been screwing them for decades, and make a convenient boogie man for justifying spending ludicrous amounts of money on military hardware.

  5. 5
    slc1

    The last fucken Shah of Iran was, indeed, not a nice man. However, compared to the Assads and the Ayatollahs, he was a saint.

    Incidentally, thus far, Assad fils has managed to kill more Palestinians then perished in both against the Gaza Strip by the IDF combined. The Palestinians should thank their lucky stars that the Assads, pere and fils, aren’t running the Government of Israel; then they would really have something to whine about.

  6. 6
    slc1

    Second sentence should read … perished in both actions against….

  7. 7
    invivoMark

    Oh, well if there’s a war on, then I guess it’s okay, right? No matter if what you’re doing is going to kill half a million children, as long as it makes those bastards pay, it’s okay.

    I think you may have missed the entire point of Mano’s post.

  8. 8
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    We (by whom you apparently mean the U.S.) are not legally or officially in a state of war with Iran. The U.S. government no longer thinks it’s necessary to declare war on a country to blockade, bomb, or invade it.

    Legalities aside, how many imprisoned diplomats will be freed by the deaths of those children? If the issue is those diplomats held captive in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran gave us what we said we wanted, and did so more than 30 years ago.

  9. 9
    richardrobinson

    Further, one might argue this was a retaliation for the time the U.S. deposed their democratically elected government and installed a dictator friendly to U.S. interests. One could conceivably consider that an act of war.

  10. 10
    slc1

    The takeover of the US Embassy in 1979 was a serious violation of international law. The US would have been will within its rights to have entered the Iranian embassy in Washington and arrested all the Iranian diplomats there, which was not done.

  11. 11
    kantalope

    Another way to look at it – do those in Iran who are overseeing and building nuclear isotopes thave any trouble getting their medical needs met?

    Who isn’t paying what price? If Iran does decide to go nuclear – who is paying and not paying for their actions then?

    I guess sanctions eventually worked in Libya…what were/are the chances that they will work in Iran?

    I only have questions I guess.

  12. 12
    lorn

    When elephants fight it is the grass that gets trampled.

    It would be a fine thing if the citizens within nations could be protected from harm when nation, or business interests, fight. There has historically been a whole lot of hand wringing and pearl clutching over the plight of citizens during conflicts but there are precious few alternatives offered.

    For the citizens there are often no alternatives. During WW2 Stalin forged a feudal agricultural system into a war machine. He used murder, starvation, propaganda and open threats to drive the nation and maintain control. But the central thing he understood was that loyalty and popularity was relative. He could be heartless and cruel, even to the point of exploitation to the point of death, as long as the Russian people hated him just a bit less than they hated the Germans.

    Iranians, with their Iran/Iraq war history of human wave tactics using children are familiar with the idea that citizens, and their children, are a resource that can be exploited by the rulers to advance their cause and authority.

    Nations will impose sanctions that put people at risk. And the sanctioned nation will maximize the suffering by withhold what resources are available and use the suffering of their own people for propaganda purposes.

    US sanctions against Saddam era Iraq caused suffering but at no time during the sanction regime were the Iraqi elites unable to get what they needed. The poor, and politically unconnected, died as the material resources they needed sat in government controlled warehouses in Iraq. Neither the nations imposing sanctions nor the leaders within Iraq have clean hands.

    How to impose pain upon a nation without inflicting pain on its citizens remains a problem.

    But it isn’t just a problem of nations. It is the same problem in reverse but sharing the same difficulty in targeting. I’ve seen it play out in welfare where food aid intended to help children is used to buy food for the adults, freeing up money for alcohol, while the children in the family live off hotdogs and discounted white bread.

    School lunch, and now breakfasts, were seen as a way to get benefits to the children directly. But even this has be exploited.

  13. 13
    Marcus Ranum

    The takeover of the US embassy was retaliation for the US’ engineering the overthrow of an elected Iranian government and positioning a puppet ruler in its place. If you want to go back in time for layers of events that “justify” revenge, the potential depth and detail is infinite.

    Since the CIA was using the embassy for undeclared spies, it would be easy for the Iranians to argue that the embassy’s protections did not apply. One of the things most Americans don’t appear to understand is that your embassy is not guaranteed protection no matter what. Embassies are supposed to not foment rebellion, engage in espionage, pay for political assassination, etc., all of which the US Embassy was openly engaged in. The strings on the puppet on the throne of Iran led to the US Embassy and everyone in Iran knew it; it was not exactly subtle.

    The problem with justifying cycles of revenge is when to stop. If you’re not honest, you stop where it’s convenient for you. But if you dig deeper, you can always find something that justifies retaliation. Sometimes it needs to be stretched a bit, sometimes not.

    Today we are blockading Iran because, um, apparently they are refusing to kowtow to colonial authority like they used to. How unreasonable of them!

  14. 14
    Marcus Ranum

    How to impose pain upon a nation without inflicting pain on its citizens remains a problem.

    That is not even a moral question. Nations are an emergent property of their citizenry. Usually, unfortunately, that citizenry has had their polis hijacked illegally, stolen subtly, or gerrymandered away from them. There is no Iran that makes decisions there is only a relatively small handful of self-chosen power elites that make choices that affect all of Iran. We have stepped off the cliff if we are at the point where the entire population of Iran is being made to suffer for the decisions of Iran’s autocracy.

    Imagine, if you will, another country punishing the US’ entire population because of the War On Drugs. And we’d all go “WTF!?! HEY! We don’t even SUPPORT the War On Drugs!! None of US DO!” but the iron response would be, “it’s your fault, because you haven’t destroyed yourselves in bloody revolution over this issue, to overthrow your government so you could submit to our political wil!” Basically, that’s what the US is doing with Iran: “We don’t like your government. Have a revolution, OK? And keep having them until you create a government we like. OK?” What. The. Fuck.

  15. 15
    baal

    Less visibly, a similar problem happens in the U.S. due to the patenting system. A set of drugs without huge markets (so generics won’t get in) or new (so genetics are illegal) are not available at a cost affordable by folks who need them. In many cases, the cost to manufacture or to recoup development costs isn’t any where near the per dose monopoly pricing.

  16. 16
    Ravi Venkataraman

    @slc1: I think you forget that there is no war going on. Secondly, Iran has not done anything to violate its international treaty obligations, and therefore the sanctions are merely a vindictive measure by the super-duper-hyper power that will soon lose its pre-eminent status.

    We know from the Iraq embargo years that the sanctions severely affect the weak, the poor and the innocent, but as long as they are not “our” people, you seem to be saying it is all right for them to die an early death.

    Shame on you, slc1!

  17. 17
    Ravi Venkataraman

    @slc1,

    To say that the Shah of Iran is a saint in comparison to other dictators is to completely ignore history and facts. What concrete evidence do you have to say that the Shah was better than other dictators?

    The real comparison should be with the current rulers of Iran, or with all the rulers of Iran since the 1979 overthrow of the Shah. Are you claiming that the Shah’s regime was gentler on Iranians than the current regime? If so, please provide some evidence.

    To say that Assad, as an Israeli leader, would have killed more Palestinians, is simply stupid. No Arab leader could be responsible for the genocide being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians with the help of the US. The point is that Israel’s occupation is wrong, even one death by Israeli forces is one too many.

  18. 18
    Ravi Venkataraman

    “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”

    I am so glad, slc1, that you and your ilk are not in any position to make any important foreign policy decisions.

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